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Interview with Bonnie Lefrak from the Fitness Asylum

Here is an interview with Bonnie Lefrak the owner of the Fitness Asylum.  We are talking about nutrition and weight loss as we start off this new year. 


(Transcript of interview is below)

hi I'm dr. pelto and welcome to

healthy living I'm here with my special

guest Bonnie Lafrak from the Fitness

Asylum Bonnie thank you for coming today

thanks Don glad to be here

so, Bonnie we're going to talk a little bit

today because we're starting a new year

the month of January and everyone is

thinking about fitness getting in shape

and probably losing weight I hope so for

your business right that's great I think

right it's every January everyone's

thinking that so every January in my

practice I see people come in and they

say you know I'm trying to get in weight

I'm trying to get in shape and trying to

lose weight and they come in with a

number of foot problems tendon problems

and other issues and I tell them and I

and no one listens to me and this is

probably a similar thing I say you know

it's 80% nutrition right and 20% working

out I would start with the nutrition

first and then with the working outs

what do you think about that uh that is

exactly where we go from I get phone

calls all the time people are afraid to

start working out because right they do

have previous injuries or they haven't

worked out in a long time and the

conversation I always come back to is

you know what that's okay things like

our body challenge or 30-day sprint or

you know all these different

transformation programs they really are

just about changing the way you're

eating and I say sadly I hate to tell

you but and people I think know this

mm-hmm their success really lies in what

they eat and what they don't eat the

work out working out is great yeah

working out could lower your blood sugar

working out can preserve lean muscle

mass working out can certainly make you

feel confident and empowered I'd rather

somebody definitely work on the food and

then we can add the workouts later or we

can add them very slowly

so, Bonnie tell me about your

personal experience with working out

with eating with Fitness how did

you get interested in this in this area

how did you open up your own business

like a fitness asylum I'll try to make

it really condensed right so I started

off in the early 90s and in a very

popular program most people will know it

as Jazzercise yeah wait so way back and

I have a great love for Jazzercise I

know people like to post those funny

memes you know like here's Judy Shepard

miss it from 1980 and they want to laugh

and make I'm like well she's still

working she's probably a

multi-millionaire billionaire she really

pioneered the group exercise in aerobic

dance and the community that comes with

it and I really liked it I thought it

was fun I met a lot of people and I got

interested in working out obviously what

happened over time because times change

I got interested in lifting weights okay

oh you know mostly was my mom sort of

saying you know you can teach Jazzercise

and teach 20 or 30 people what about

this personal training thing what about

doing one on one and that's when

personal training became popular towards

the mid 90s late 90s and so I turned my

attention to that and I started to get

into like a regular mainstream gym and I

saw great results from it and so I felt

like women really don't know the gym

they know maybe the lightweights

right you go to any type of class yeah

anywhere here's your five pound

dumbbells and that's good that's a great

starting place but I you know I wasn't

like I went to the gym and um you know

squatting 300 hello that's isn't that

the concern a lot of females my wife was

was going starting and at the fitness

Asylum and she said you know before she

even started she said you know Don I I

don't want to get huge and big

that if that happens to me I'm just

going to stop and I told her that's not

just going to happen that takes a lot of

work to go back in it and so right there

are so many stereotypes and women even

you know at least when I was going to

school we weren't really taught about

lifting if the gym was really the place

where the guys worked out it wasn't you

know for the girls the girls did

cheerleading or we ran around the track

and I really saw a great benefit and a

big change from somebody who was working

out hours and hours a week suddenly now

I'm adding in to strength training

sessions a week and I'm seeing big

differences and so when I transitioned

to be more in the gym and working more

on the weightlifting that's also when I

got interested in the nutrition okay

some of it I have to say is probably

linked to old-school bodybuilding

because you're kind of in that you know

you're reading about that and you're

starting to read about you know maybe

making a shift from carbohydrates to

proteins and all of these things and you

know it sort of fell into place my what

I really wanted to do was one I felt

like I discovered something that I had

to share okay I had to share ladies

lifting weights is awesome and it's the

way to make up a change in your body

you're not you know out running for you

know ten miles a day getting nowhere or

do you know doing something over and

over not getting results so this shift

of understanding the importance of body

building or is it weight lifting what do

you want to call that I'll call it

weight okay I don't want to scare people

okay so it's called weight lift you

found out the importance of weight

lifting for yourself first yes and you

saw the benefits clearly and you thought

well I just need to share this with

other people

that's what I mean how can you do that

was it with personal training do you do

go and stand in a street corner and tell

everyone right you can and that was

before social media right so I didn't go

on Facebook and tell people my big

discovery I would tell people that I

would see in the gym I would tell you

know I was teaching Jazzercise classes I

had friends I worked in a large gym and

I was able to start doing personal

training and start helping women you

know oh no we're not going to go to cardio

yeah we're not going to go so I'm not going to

watch you stand on a treadmill like I

don't have to do that let's go do this

and teach people how to squat and then

you know how to slowly start to add more

weight and work on their form and their

confidence level and you just start to

see results you grow it so that's really

it started a long time ago it it had a

lot of different I hid a lot of

different things along the way I was

interested in bodybuilding I know the

average woman not that interested in

bodybuilding but the good news is even

that industry has become more mainstream

and so people are more interested in

bikini right that sounds a little bit

more user friendly but the bottom line

what happened was with strength training

or weight lifting you can get people

great results in not a lot of time

and I'd been training people for years

kettlebells in the gym just basic

bodybuilding type moves even I mean I've

taught spinning I've done kind of at all

I've done it all what I really wanted to

do for people was make a quick not easy

but quick workout where they didn't have

to do a lot of thinking right we kind of

talked about that where someone could

come in there's an instructor we're

going to guide you through a boot camp kind

of thing and boot camp is a widely used

term I realize it's you moving station

to station generally doing full-body or

you know multi-joint

type of exercises we're not looking to

turn people into body builders we're

looking for people to get the cardio the

strength and even some stability or

mobility sort of built into that workout

and I want people especially women but

all people we have a lot of men clients

male clients too I want people to like

the workout I want people have fun I

want people to be like oh I thought I

hated working out but I love it and you

know the best part is when I walk in

everybody knows who I am and if they

didn't see me for a week it's a

community that's kind of what it is and

it really draws people and people feel

comfortable and they feel happy to be

there and you shut the door behind them

and you know maybe it's snowing out or

maybe with a lot of traffic that day or

you don't like your boss or whatever

you're here now in this workout and it's

all for you and you don't have to think

about anything except just you know

breathe through it have fun and how

accomplished you feel afterwards so it's

been a long journey to get to the

fitness Asylum for me I had I had

another business I worked in many

many different gym settings I didn't sit

down like with a pad of paper or a

whiteboard and say oh I'm going to create

this business it happened very

organically I just needed a place to

train my clients that if you said this

was the place then I would have said

okay move that camera then we'll start

working out right here I didn't care

what it was or what it looked like I

just knew I need a place for Pete you

know for people to come and they have

and now we're going onto our eighth year

wonderful so you've been eight

year with a fitness asylum yeah how many

locations do you have we have three now

so the biggest one the newest one is in

Hudson it is yeah and so that's sort of

a newer territory for us we have clients

in Hudson and around there but you know

now I know Hudson's kind of cool and

upcoming has a nice growing it is it's

growing it's a really nice place and so

let's talk about the what's the

traditional is this what we're

talking about right now at the fitness

asylum is this the traditional way of

weight loss or is this kind of a new way

or is why do you think it's a better way

than what what's everyone doing all I

can say is it let's say my experience

I started to go to the gym and I we

used to do the treadmill I like to swim

I never really had a weight problem I

liked it for the stress relief but I

never really saw many results I used to

go let's say every day for an hour after

work but I never really saw the results

my wife started to going to the fitness

Asylum and she said you should try this

and what I liked the most about it is is

I showed up and someone told me what to

do yeah an hour and I went there and I

started feeling better I started to I

felt like I was looking better and I

your confidence goes up and it's just a

nice feeling and I thought to myself one

day I was thinking you know this is

something I feel like I could do the

rest of my life and that's all I really

wanted to do because I have two young

kids and I'm busy with other things I

don't have time for other things I'm

like that's that hour three days a week

is enough yeah maybe later on you could

do other things but then once I started

doing it what I found is we wanted to

work with the nutrition aspect of it

yeah and that's where it changed I

couldn't just do that and keep eating

the same way because I didn't feel good

I didn't it was like you're trying to

power something and there's no the right

nutrients and I think is that how it

goes is it usually the workouts and then

that then you change how you eat what

happen to me and for me too and it's

interesting because then I have the

phone call with people and I do try to

get them started the nutrition first

because they're not ready for the

workout so I have people coming it from

a both way ways your question is really

interesting so and I just it's funny I

have this conversation a lot I have it

with clients I have it with friends I

have it with colleagues you know when it

comes to nutrition it's kind of

like ask 10 experts or ask 10 people

nevermind experts, ask any ten people

and get ten answers what I think what I

like to look at is the commonalities

right so whether you're low carb very

low carb paleo whole thirty Kido clean

eating even to some extent I'm sure

Weight Watchers Nutrisystem Jenny Craig

like let's picks pick whatever it is the

thing there are very

common across the board one is let it

let us remove reduce or eliminate sugar

sugar flour right pretty much your carbs

and when I say sugar I right I should be

more specific it includes flour too so I

just think you know anything whether

it's cookies or chips are all kind of in

the same boat but right if you can

eliminate those things your and I don't

care people are probably listening to

this right now and their thing oh no I

can't eliminate sugar

I can't eliminate flour you go just

thinking about oh go through a

withdrawal you do so you know what's so

interesting that you say that because

it's it is interest, so it is and you've

been helping people with this for a long

and it's called you call a challenge

right that's what you take them on as a

how many days 30 days well 12 12 weeks

12 weeks and I like 12 weeks why the

challenge why not say the rest of your

life why I like that idea of the

challenge it's so many great question so

for example, if I said Don would you sign

up for the rest of your life

no way I'll go today it's overwhelming

and it's so interesting a lot of people

right we still remember the you know our

excitement and our first saw the Biggest

Loser right those kinds of shows they

still exist

so people have that sort of met like oh

like there's a contest and there's you

know competition and teams and all of

that so it appeals to people in that way

make it a game yep so it's a game and it

has a start and a start and an end okay

so here's the cool thing once people do

get started they start over twelve weeks

because it's a long enough period

of time with and we're giving them

information education they're seeing the

results but they start to realize oh hey

I'm enjoying it a I'm seeing changes I

see the benefits if I want to keep my

results I'm probably going to keep doing

this yeah and really we're not getting

brand-new people every 12 weeks we get

like 50% new and 50% stay because they

you know they do understand lifestyle is

not just 12 weeks of no sugar no flour

what or whatever changes you made yeah

maintenance isn't a special island you

arrived on and you get to stay there and

then go back to doing all you you know

all the things you wanted so another

thing besides the sugar and the flour

the common element amongst any plan that

you pick would be consistency and that

is that takes practice I tell people all

the time I said you know what you're not

going to undo 40 years of I fill in the

blank for years of crap 40 years of bad

habit or just different habits or

different you know different ways of

being and change it all in twelve weeks

right you're it's a process and when

people see the results and they meet

other people and they don't feel so

isolated and alone and confused because

we're bombarded with information I think

I think one of the keys you just

addressed which I know you're gonna talk

about is the community yeah you can't do

it alone Bonnie you you you how many

times I remember when I was a little kid


we were we had to run the mile mm-hmm

and and so I decided I think it was two

days before I was gonna start practicing

running the mile so I was in my basement

running around the mouth you know doing

that thing and and then as I was a

younger kid I was thinking well I'm I

was a little hefty on a husky side and I

was so I'm gonna start a diet and just

you know stop eating Twinkies or

something like that so we all have these

I don't know it's almost like you're

taking over with a desire to change but

it's really hard to do it alone because

you fall back into your habits so easily

and one of the habits is working out but

an even more difficult habit is how

eat that's always what gets people so

we'd all like to think we can outwork

our diet yeah right you can I can I

workout two hours a day or three hours a

day so I can eat whatever I want I have

clients like that and again it is sort

of you know a process of realizing ok

some have a metabolic state that there's

a skinny they can eat whatever they want

yeah we don't like those people no I'm

not I you know because you have kids and

you'll start to see and I've seen it in

my children where I really do I'm

interested I'm like well you know to

some extent there is a Jeanette there's

a genetic component let's face it we do

all have a skinny friend yep I have like

a skinny child who eats more than

anybody and it's amazing I'm like this

is unbelievable check out how small this

person is and they consume everything so

that's real and there are things that

happen to people you know who knows over

the course of somebody's life you know

the different ways things you know slow

down maybe you know people they're

skinny until they were 35 or 40 or 50

and then you know because it hit a point

where something changes aging of course

you know you're sort of the the best

hormonal profile you'll get is probably

at age 25 when you know everything is

going in your favor

after 25 pianos did things start to

change and if you're not working out

you're not strength training you're not

really paying attention you're going to

start to see a slow decline yeah and and

if you keep eating like you were 25 when

you're 40 or 50 people that's when

people start to go wow I've had a weight

creep and it could be very slow and

insidious but it happens and I tell

people all the time I'm like look fat

loss is a hormonal event so weight loss

fat loss fat loss I like to say fat loss

because I don't want to be too obsessed

with the scale I think that's I think

that people get thrown off by the scale

and thrown off in a lot of ways you get

you know we've all maybe played the

scale game where if I got on the scale

and I liked what it said I can eat

whatever I want I have some wiggle room

hooray I can do this or that so I try to

to warn people I'm like you know what

the scale kind of fluctuates it's don't

get too wrapped up in it but let's let's

think about fat loss and

la shows up in different ways how your

clothes fit right how you feel you know

you go to bootcamp class enough to

notice like oh wow I can really go a

little bit faster I can get that extra

pull up or that extra push up I can go a

little bit heavier on the weight so you

know just maybe eventually get on the

scale and go the scale didn't change at

all but I'm wearing pants there you know

two sizes smaller so you know it's the

community thing is really big and you

know what's really cool when you go to

class people I mean honor on the regular

basis and you've seen it people start

clapping for other people they do like

oh my god you just did something you

never did before in your life like

everybody's clapping people are happy

for you they they want your success and

they feed off of it and people feel good

there I think that's a good transition

to maybe share some of these success

stories that you like with some of your

clients and something that you're proud

of about other people yeah that's the

best part about the fitness asylum is I

I I I live like I just love all of the

the success stories you won't find

really on our Facebook page like

pictures of me working out like hey look

at me who cares about me it's my clients

but I have a couple different pictures

to show but I have thousands and

thousands and thousands of photos and

what's really cool

I have cumulative photos so if they've

done multiple 12-week challenges and

correct we can sometimes we have we'll

put together four photos where you can

kind of see sometimes here's that where

they started two years ago and here's

where they're now amazing it

I mean I have goosebumps talking about

it so for example I have Amanda brown

who in her weight loss which is about 85

to 87 pounds right now

Wow she looks like you know she lost ten

years fifteen years easily just a

completely different person and you know

what goes with that of course you can

imagine your physician so you can

already be like Bonnie I'm sure if she

got her blood work and we compared that

you know yes that's the kind people do

they'll go to their doctors and not only

so I have the photos yeah what I really

like is when they get their physical

and they the triglycerides are down the

cholesterol ratio was so much better and

their blood sugar is you know their a1c

is great and all of these health markers

we're like well I mean I don't want to

say we're saving lives like we are you

know it is and and the person feels

really good about themselves so I have

all of these you know cumulative photos

and you know the ones I'm gonna show you

of course are the most dramatic ones

Alice Moriarty ninety pounds

Paul Bell cool Fame hundred pounds these

are about two years for each person it

took two years to lose that a moment now

if someone that's watching this and they

say well that that seems impossible

without surgery or it seems impossible

how do these people do it so what's

what's the what's this there's no see I

know it is interesting because I always

go to my clients and I'm like why them

and not the others

interesting right so it's consistency

it's also you know none of these people

and I say this all the time at the we do

I like a kick off our 12-week challenges

I'm like look look around you right now

the people sitting next to you were just

like you they're not smarter than you

better than you they don't have more

willpower than you they don't a better

genetics than you all the same so what's

the difference right is just being

consistent not trying to be perfect

because I don't you know what I mean

like you don't really go two years

without having pizza or cake or what

else enough you just you can't make that

a habit no I think you know it's

interesting like Paul who's lost 100

pounds he loves to go on cruises okay

and he loves to really live it up and

he's got the Facebook photos to show it

like I'm watching I'm like wow Paul so

he'd go and but you know when it's

planned I'm going on vacation when I do

whatever I want I'm not gonna be and I'm

not gonna care if I'm you know eating

nachos on vacation when I come back yeah

I'm gonna go back to eating you know my

grilled chicken and my broccoli and all

my stuff and you know he and it's not

that he just doesn't wake ation once a

year we've got easily two vacations and

we got you know a Bolivian living your

life so that's the beauty of the

cumulative it's not you know two years

of like living

you know some draconian lifestyle and

then in terms of working are these

people doing at five six days a week are

they doing it three four yeah some lasts

for more I see it's not the amount of

working out no it's not

I do understand like once you start

working out and it's fun and you like it

you do kind of want to do more and I get

it it's like anything else you're like

well if a little bits good a lot of bits

way better and I always tell people you

know what the body does a lot of great

things in recovery right we don't want

to be pushing ourselves too much and

feeling you know like get we're gonna

get injured or anything like that three

days a week is good for days or you know

you can alternate but I mean one of the

photos I know would be of interest to

you just you know as a physician and you

have seen people who have issues with

their feet or diabetic sores and things

like not I've had and this isn't the

first time I've had somebody in 12 weeks

win the entire challenge without working

out it's helped it's happened twice

really no workouts actually mark whose

photo I have he worked out once and he

had some sores that did not like it so

he couldn't work out and he lost about

40 pounds and looked like it looks like

a totally different person

Wow a couple years ago was a woman and

she had a knee issue couldn't even walk

I couldn't even like go for a walk in

the neighborhood she was doing nothing

all she did was make changes basic the

no sugar the no flour eating more

regularly eating more vegetables eating

more quality protein nothing crazy

I'm not here you know with a special bag

special shake mix or special supplements

or any other secrets correct other than

sort of the real food aspect and that's

all I'm not saying it's easy because if

you're you know we're all in a hurry

we all are running out the door grabbing

whatever I you know grab food off my

kids plates things I would never eat but

when you're tired and hungry and in a


it's you know you changed that you made

you change that and so the the people

who've been successful a lot of them

most of them aren't yeah they're not

work or outer people they're just people

who wanted and needed to make a change

and I think a lot of times it's having

the commitment when you commit to

something and you have the community

100% and it's interesting the

friendships right so people are you know

people are rooting for you and they are

following your transformation yeah

that's very very interesting I know in

in our personal personal life what's

always helped us the most with two young

children the two things that helped us

having our groceries delivered yes and

we do something called once a month

meals are you familiar with that I have

not heard about once a month meals it

it's it's a little website you pay maybe

five dollars a month and you print out

food plans at one week or one month and

it has a master prep list a master

shopping list and a master cooking list

in and it puts everything together so

food prep for us is the most important

thing so we can choose the recipes and I

tell you when you get home and you have

food ready we look at each other we just

smile we say we have food when we look

at each other we don't have food

we're like what are we gonna bring and

about what do we and it just causes

added stress so food prep I think is the

most important thing for having with

kids oh it is there's you're hungry you

walk into your house open the fridge and

there's raw chicken yeah like you can

actually take a half hour to cook it is

and so food you know I've asked people

I've straight-out said what what are the

things that make you feel successful

right having food that's more than the

number one Ahmir it's having a clean

house and having food prep that having

food prep was the number one answer

number two was scheduling and going to

boot camps again so I asked obviously

people who were more in my program I

didn't ask 10 strangers you know at the

grocery store what they thought was

success but because right and then we

just really talked about not making you

know not making elaborate meals it's

really once the food is prepped then it

is just the art of plating it usually

it's the protein that's prepped

you may you may prep the protein you add

it to a salad or if I have to confess it

is a little bit boring it's a little bit

boring because you're eating it's

usually salad and protein and then you

can maybe on the weekends we spice it up

a week it's it's just living right so

exactly and so that's the there's a

quote out there P I've been quoted by my

clients and what do they call I won't

use the whole cook if there was a word

okay but it was pretty much every time

you eat is not going to be a fiesta yeah

right it's fuel yep and I've made the

joke before I'm like you know you're not

driving in your car going oh let's go to

Shell gasoline and your car says oh no

I'm so sick of shell could we please go

to a different gas no it just once it's

gas and that's and that's a shift and

you know why let's face it it's a great

shift to make but it's also kind of like

oh I kind of think a week look for you

know you if you use something different

yeah I want to sit home and just eat a

pizza and now if I'm not doing that

anymore what am i doing to unwind what

am i doing to connect with my friends or

my family I'm like well it's called

talking to your family you know and I

get it because that's how we do connect

with food that's go out for drinks let's

go out for you know pizza or jojo's or

whatever and so what if we don't do that

I mean we could still go out yeah how

does that change things so it's very

interesting but again it is a little

boring but it's it's easy yeah it's

simple and you are getting you know

you're not getting overly hungry because

you have the food you're not making bad

choices because when you're hungry then

right can't make good choices can sobani

that our time is kind of finishing up a

little bit went by so fast I think we

covered most of the thing I wanted to is

there anything else that you wanted to

share and if not just how can people

kind of learn more about the fitness

asylum and kind of try it out please go

to our website of course where does it


- asylum calm okay we'll put it on the

screen perfect and my contact

information there is - so if you want to

talk in depth ok me a call

well thank you so much money it was a

wonderful time chatting with you same

here and I hope we have you back

time absolutely


Dr. Donald Pelto Dr. Donald Pelto Dr. Donald Pelto is a Podiatrist at Central Massachusetts Podiatry, in Worcester and Westborough. Author of several books on foot health, he also speaks Portuguese and Spanish. He likes to go on family hikes and loves learning and talking about health related topics and healthy life hacks. Watch some of his interviews about health and video lectures on

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